As we go through life we usually are busy. Busy with family, work, or maybe looking forward to vacation or maybe dinner out with some friends. We often focus on ourselves or our immediate family or friends. The rest of the world becomes beyond our focus or interest.
But police often ruin things with reminders about being aware of what is going on around you, especially when it comes to crime. But, you say you don’t want to be “paranoid.” Life should be more than obsessing on the bad that can happen to you. It should be about the positive in life. And you’re right. But a little awareness can keep you out of trouble or maybe give you an advantage in being a help if you find trouble around you.
People who teach personal safety often refer to a graduated scale- states of awareness:
1. White- is where you are totally unaware of anything around you. Professionals discourage us from being in this state as we go through the day. People in white, are those who, after being robbed or assaulted on the street, say that they never saw it coming.
2. Yellow- is where you are aware of what is going on around you. You’re relaxed, but you look around, if you are walking your stride is confident. You notice people around you so that you can see unusual activity and then go on to the next stage. This is where the professional personal safety trainer wants you.
3. Orange- In orange you detect a potential threat. At this point, you should start to develop a plan in your head to protect yourself.
4. Red- In red you should be actively protecting yourself, either by fighting or by running to safety.
5. Black- If you are in black you are so overwhelmed by events, that criminals find it easy to victimize you. You can easily go from white to black. It’s better to be in yellow where you can inform yourself and be ready for any threat.
But being aware is not only for your personal safety, it is important within your community and neighborhood. This means being aware of your surroundings as you go about your day, by being alert when you are at home, but also talking to your neighbors about incidents that may have occurred when you are away from home or in parts of your neighborhood that you cannot see. Knowing when there has been a burglary, car prowl or other incident. Knowing about what is going on in your neighborhood helps you to take action to protect yourself and your property (like remembering to lock the doors to your car parked in the driveway). It also allows you to collaborate with your neighbors to figure out the source of a problem and to take action to if not remove it, at least to discourage it from repeating (kids drinking in the park, cleaning up the park to make that kind of activity less desirable to the kids).
Of course collaborating and communicating is a lot easier now than in the “old days.” Talking face to face with your neighbor is the best way in many situations. But, of course you need to be in person with that person, which can be a challenge if you want to talk to many people. With the telephone so ubiquitous by the mid-to-late 20th century, police departments frequently recommended that neighborhood watches develop “phone trees” in order to communicate vital and time sensitive information. If someone in the neighborhood has been burglarized or had their car broken into, then they could let their neighbors know what happened. Now that the internet has become a constant part of our lives with the world wide web, email, texting (SMS) through PC’s, laptops, tablet computers and even in our pockets or purses with our smartphones, communication is much easier and can be much broader.
Being alert to what is going on around you has new tools that can help your community. For example, we have talked about www.crimemapping.com which can give you information about all kinds of crime incidents that have been reported to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office. All you have to do is enter your address and you will see what crime has occurred around you. Anyone can access this information and can even sign up for email alerts.
Everyone in your neighborhood watch may not be into checking the web site or signing up for a crime alert. If one or two people in your neighborhood do receive alerts and/or regularly check the site then they can pass the information on to the rest of the watch. This does not replace information that your neighborhood watch members can exchange among themselves where everyone can learn things about how burglars gained entry or what was taken, which can help each member focus on how they can protect themselves. www.crimemapping.com does not give a lot of detail about each incident other than date, time, general address (such as 100 block of 123 St SE), type of activity, and an incident number. But it can keep your neighbors aware of what is going on around them.
Knowing what is going on around you (the military calls it “situational awareness) can help you personally but also your neighbors to keep yourselves and your property safe, especially if you use the modern tools that we have to communicate.